Radiocarbon Dating and Archeology in North America

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Science  13 Jan 1967:
Vol. 155, Issue 3759, pp. 165-169
DOI: 10.1126/science.155.3759.165


The history of the development of a radiocarbon chronology shows how the establishment of the times of events and the order of them has greatly improved the understanding of prehistory in North America. This is true also of other parts of the world. Too little has been said of existing discordance between archeologically determined sequences, and interregional associations, and the radiocarbon chronology. It does appear that these will be resolved as additional dates are added and as the results become more finely calibrated so that secular variations may be accounted for.

The collaborative aspect of the venture was apparent at the outset. Nevertheless no one expects an archeologist to delve into nuclear physics and geochemistry, and vice versa. There is great need, nevertheless, for the man in the laboratory to comprehend the difficulties of sample collecting and of judgement of the significance of the source of organic matter to be dated. At the same time, the archeologist must become more familiar with the importance of the various steps in the processing of the sample and with, what is most vital, interpretation of the significance of the numbers that appear on the counters.